Holt Hill Adventure!

Mr. Cone’s Ornithology Class Ventures to Holt Hill

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

This week in Mr. Cone’s Ornithology class, we took a trip over to Holt Hill! Believe it or not, it was my first time experiencing the beautiful views of the Boston skyline and the blossoming apple trees.

Submission 4

On our way up the hill, Mr. Cone, already on the look-out, spotted a female and male bluebird. By the time he pointed out the male bluebird, it had taken off! But the female stayed behind for a couple minutes. She was had beautiful light blue back, not quite as vibrant as the males usually are, with an orange tint on her underbelly. She was enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. My picture doesn’t do her colors justice, but you can see her peaceful perch on the tree branch.

Not far from the bluebird, we spotted two cowbirds, a male and female, perched on another tree. They were calm, but playful, as they interacted with one another up and down the branch. Once the female took off, the male did not hesitate to follow her. I tried to get a picture, but they were too active to get a good shot!

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When we finally made our way toward the open field, my class all stopped in their tracks to admire the views. It was truly amazing, especially given that we were there for a class (thanks Mr. Cone!). Immediately, we could hear birds singing everywhere, and Mr. Cone was quick to call attention to two turkey vultures flying overhead. Over in one of the apples trees, in the midst of white flowers appeared a Baltimore oriole. It’s bright orange colors were hard to miss. If you look closely at the picture I took through my “binocs,” you can see a little speck of orange surrounded by the white flowers.

Considering this spell of gloomy weather, we were lucky to get outside on Thursday and enjoy the sunshine. It truly was beautiful. Each time I go outside, I am more and more keen to the birds around me. The moments when I either see or hear a bird and can identify it are the most rewarding for me. It is nice to know that I can keep this knowledge with me wherever I go! Until next time! 🙂

 

The Herring Are Coming!

Bio100 Visits the Shawsheen River

This year’s Bio100 class had the unique opportunity to visit the Shawsheen River last week and learn a bit about habitat change. Each period piled into a bus and drove down to near Whole Foods in Andover to a bridge overlooking the Shawsheen River.

There, they met Jon Honea, a professor at Emerson College in Boston whose research involves making computer models to see how habitat change effects different communities. In this particular spot, two dams that were built approximately 200 years ago were taken down to allow the migratory fish to return to the area. He is now monitoring the return of the fish that used to be native to this area, namely the River Herring. These fish are silver in color and about a foot long. Mr. Honea and his team are watching the river for about 10 minutes at a time to see how many of these fish are spotted. This data will help to estimate the fish’s spawning population time.

Mr. Honea talked to them a bit about why it is so important for us to repopulate the river with this Herring. They play an important role in the ecosystem as food for many animals. They spawn in fresh water rivers and then move to the ocean to grow up. Mr. Mundra also talked a bit about the two dams that were removed from the area. These dams were preventing the fish from coming back to spawn in the river. These dams were built approximately 200 years ago as a source of energy for the Powder Mills in the area. Mr. Honea also said that the downstream dam was purely ornamental – the owner of the Mills wanted a gurgling sound for his administrative staff to feel comfortable working in the building.

The class then helped Mr. Honea to count the fish in the river. They took some basic data down, the weather and temperature of the air and water, and began to look for the fish. We are looking for the stray fish who are now able to make it upstream, to see how many make it up now that the dams are gone. Unfortunately, in the 10 minutes that we were there, no one saw a fish, but the hope is that within the next three or four years the population will be thriving!

Up Close and Personal

The Ornithology Adventure Continues!

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

After a gloomy and rainy 3-day week, Mr. Cone’s Ornithology class is back outside again! This past Thursday, during our usual double period, my class explored more of main campus in addition to our usual route down in Pineknoll. Mr. Cone was hoping to point out a new bird to us: the starling. He said that they liked to nest in the gutters on the side of the library. We started on our route toward the back end of the library. When the group reached the path between Common’s circle and the library, the excitement began. We saw a handful of starlings and their nests, settled within the articulate copper gutters on the left side of the library (picture below).

As we circled the back of the library, we began to see more and more starlings. If you get the chance, look up around the roof of the library and you’re bound to see one! They have black bodies with little white specks, and they have a yellow beak.

We found our way over to the Gelb lawn, and we were instantly intrigued by an unfamiliar song: “chip, chip, chip!” My class had met their first Chipping Sparrow! These tiny birds are hard to find but very easy to hear. After finally finding the chipping sparrow hiding in one of the trees on the Gelb Lawn, Mr. Cone asked me and two of my classmates to fetch some loaves of bread from Commons. Without any explanation given, the three of us were en route to Commons for bread.

Submission 3[3]

Our next adventure was over by 1924 House, which is home to a Phoebe’s nest. As we very quietly approached the house, we waited to hear the distinct noise: “phoebeee.” But to no avail. Then, Mr. Cone showed us the nest, and with his handy mirror, he tried to see if there were any eggs in the nest. While we didn’t see any, this is only the beginning! We will have plenty of opportunities to see and hear more Phoebes.

Submission 3[4]

It was not until we passed Mr. Robinson’s bird feeder that Mr. Cone revealed the reasons for the bread. Of course! We were going to feed the geese at Rabbit Pond. Mr. Cone explained to us that the “tagged” geese would be willing to get pretty close to a group of humans like us, because of their previous exposure to humans – probably a result of habituation (a common bird behavior type). He was right. After about 5 minutes, we were feeding two geese about five feet away from us!

Mornings with MAC – Holley Edition

Get to Know Your Science Faculty with your Weekly Installment of Mornings with MAC!

Guest Post by Michael Codrington ’18

Mornings with MAC logoGood morning loyal fans and new readers, this is Mornings with MAC. Last week, in our inaugural issue, we interviewed Mr. Jose Peralta, instructor in introductory biology and Bartlet house counselor. This week we’re sticking with biology, but transitioning to chair Leon Holley. This particular Morning with MAC was an opportunity for Mr. Holley and myself to reunite for the first time since February of 2015, when I took his class for two terms. It is safe to say that Holley missed me big time.

FA 3044617 Holley, LeonMC: What do you teach at Andover?
LH: I came to Andover in September of 1993. I teach Biology, Over the years, I’ve taught a variety of courses, but currently I’m teaching biology 500. I’ve taught biology 100 and various other types of courses… Since I’m the department chair, I pretty much fill in where there is possible disparity.

MC: How long have you been working at Andover?
LH: I came to Andover in September of 1993.

MC: What brought you here?
LH: I came to the Academy working in the (MS)^2 program over one of the summers. I came for a summer and it was my introduction to Andover. Once I saw the Academy and how amazing it was I was pretty much sold.

MC: Where did you go to College? What did you study?
LH: I went to Howard University in Washington D.C. I was a Zoology major. At Howard they split up Zoology and Botany and there’s not just 1 biology major.

MC: What is your favorite thing about Andover?
LH: I guess it’s the.. Wow there’s a lot of things, jeez. I think I would have to say it’s vision. Like there’s so many things that go on here, like the (MS)^2 program, we have the IRT program, you know the saying “Youth from Every Quarter”, that’s just one of the many things we work towards, you understand?

MC: Yeah
LH: It’s all the pieces and the outreach that the academy has. It always stood out that way.

MC: Do you have any advice for aspiring Science Teachers?
LH: If you’re a science teacher, then you have to continually re-educate yourself. Science is always changing, something that is finite for only short periods of time. Science is continually moving forward.

MC: I hear you’re a huge whale fan?
LH: Whales?

MC: Yeah so, like can you talk about it, I don’t know how to phrase that – hahaha
LH: Yeah, I do like whales. I was working in summer session and I got picked to Chaperone the whale watch and it was amazing. It was 26 species of whales, it’s just like tv they jump out the water.

MC: What?
LH: Yeah and we had this one humpback whale that ended up following us and was playing games with us and got underneath the boat. That was my whale introduction.

MC: What’s your favorite movie?
LH: Wow, that’s a hard one. Favorite movie… Well I’ll give you a recent one. It’s called The Arrival and it’s like a first contact with aliens and we’re trying to communicate with each other, it’s really well done and shows you how communication works when you don’t have anywhere to start. I like the human approach to trying to understand the language. You have to see it, I’m doing a bad job describing it.Snapchat-1451131681

MC: Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
LH: I’d think I’m in the middle. I’d hope that I have something to offer all types of students with all sorts of backgrounds and that they all learn and feel challenged.

MC: Was I the best student you ever had?
LH: What?

MC: Was I the best student you ever had?
LH: You? Absolutely.

MC: Hahaha! Thank you very much Mr. Holley.

Cherry Tree Cookie Day 2017

Biology Faculty Tom Cone welcomes Spring and calls attention to one of the natural beauties of campus with cookies at the Cherry Tree

It is time again for a great tradition of Phillips Academy Andover, cookies at the Cherry Tree. For his last time, Tom Cone, put out cookies between under the nearly 65 year old Cherry Tree between Sam Phil and Morse Hall to commemorate Spring and to celebrate one of the natural treasures of the campus. Tom Cone is retiring (after 51 years of teaching!) at the end of this school year, so this is his last trip to the Cherry Tree. The Biology Department is committed to keeping this tradition alive for years to come!

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Keeping with tradition, the first period Bio100 classes helped make the trays and bring them out to the table set up under the tree.

And the crowds quickly followed! Mr. Cone reminds everyone who takes a cookie to look at the tree and marvel in its beauty.

This nearly 65-year-old cherry tree has a rich history on the campus – it has been around for decades and was almost cut down – twice! The first time was in the early 1970’s, when the old Evans Hall Science Building still stood. Some in the school thought that the cherry tree blocked the view of the building from the west side of campus and planned to cut the tree down. Students and faculty heard this and many people literally “hugged” the tree the day the cutters came so they could not cut the tree down. They did not come back.

Later, after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004, some in the school again thought that the tree blocked the view of the building from the Foxcroft area. Members of the PA community fought to keep the tree and when the architects of Gelb agreed with the community, the result was an agreement to keep the tree.

If you look closely at the tree, you can see it is held together by wires! The tree would probably fall right over if they had not brought in an expert to repair the tree and keep it standing. Thank goodness they did, because this is certainly one of the most amazingly beautiful trees on campus. It only blooms for a few days – as you can see, the petals were already starting to fall off! So, enjoy this natural beauty while it lasts!

Mornings with MAC – Peralta Edition

Get to know the Science Faculty with your weekly installment of Mornings with MAC

Guest Post by Michael Codrington ’18Mornings with MAC logo

This week on Mornings with MAC, we have Jose Peralta. Mr. Jose N. Peralta is a house counselor in the greatest boys dorm to ever exist, Bartlet hall, and a Teaching Fellow in introductory Biology for 9th graders. Peralta has an office in CAMD (Community and Multicultural Development). Throughout the year in the dorm, Mr. Peralta and I have gotten to know each other very well. So, I thought who better to inaugurate Mornings with MAC than Mr. Peralta. I sat down to ask him a few questions.

FA 3686471 Navarro Peralta, Jose

MC: How long have you been working at Andover?
JP: For about a year – started my teaching fellowship in the fall of 2016. However, I’ve worked in Summer Session for the last two summers. Specifically, as a teaching assistant for the Mathematics and Science for Minority Students (MS)2 program.

MC: What brought you here?
JP: I would say a United aircraft, but that’s my silly attempt to be funny. And, they didn’t drag me off the plane!

MC: Where did you go to college? What did you study?
JP: Bates College for undergrad. Studied biology and completed two concentrations in Film and Media Studies and in French and Francophone Studies

MC: You studied film? That’s pretty cool actually. What’s your favorite movie?
JP: Wow, you got me with this question! I’m a film fanatic, so choosing one is hard for me, but I would say the new Doctor Strange is one of my favorite movies; it’s a movie I would watch again. Sorry, Moonlight and La La Land– you weren’t that great, just saying.

MC: I’d just like to say I enjoyed both of those movies, so I’m a little hurt, but I hold nothing against you. What is your favorite thing about Andover?
JP: The students, faculty, and staff. I’ve been supported by everyone on campus, and the students in my classes and dormitory, GO BARTLET! They have made my year at Andover one to remember. Saying bye will be very hard.

MC: Do you have any advice for aspiring Science Teachers?
JP: Be yourself, be authentic, be genuine—students will appreciate that, sometimes more than any of your lessons.

MC: Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
JP: I’m not sure. You should ask some of my students. Some would say that I’m “picky” in my grading, and I would have to agree with that. My good sense of humor and approachability makes up for anything they might say about my grading style.

MC: What’s one thing a lot of people don’t know about you?
JP: I think some people know that I’m an amateur photographer, but many might not know that I placed third in a nation-wide photo contest on Instagram.

MC: Whoa, I actually had no clue about that, that’s crazy! Well thank you so much Mr. Peralta!
JP: Thank you for having me.

Next week on Mornings with MAC we interview whale-fanatic Mr. Leon Holley.

A Friday Treat!

Mr. Cone’s Ornithology Class Takes a Trip to the Bird Blind

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

After Mr. Cone’s bird quiz from last Thursday, we were all relieved to get outside on Friday. Though the weather predictions had said warm and sunny (which we all needed after the rainstorm on Thursday), dark clouds still loomed above us. Of course, this certainly didn’t stop my class from getting the most out of our outing last week!

Now that we have the lay of the land, I expect Mr. Cone thought it was time to take us down Salem Street to a designated bird watching area located off the beat and path of the main road. This re contains ten bird feeders, blocked off by paneled wooden walls, that attract many birds from the area; it’s the perfect destination to observe all the birds we are lucky enough to have around here. As soon as each of us took a seat around the walls and opened up the small panels that allowed us to see the bird feeders, the watching began.

A goldfinch with the most vibrant yellow coloring, a female downy woodpecker, and a peaceful cardinal were amongst the many birds that we had the privilege to watch on our outing. Not to mention the array of chickadees that paid us a visit. I attempted to get some photos through my binocs again:

It was an exciting day for me and my classmates, as we were introduced to some new faces in addition to ones more familiar to us. Mr. Cone was quick to point out a dark-eyed junco. He said they would not be around New England for much longer, as they start migrating north after our winter months! They must really like the cold!

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Dark-eyed Junco

Despite the gloomy skies, the excitement during our bird watching outing provided a nice change of pace. I think we are all starting to our embrace our newfound bird knowledge. I know I am! The other day, when I woke up to my alarm, I heard birds chirping outside my window. I thought to myself, that must be a house sparrow. And sure enough, it was!

With spring seeming to finally be upon us, I suspect there will be many more faces to come. Stay tuned for more adventures from Mr. Cone’s Bio 421 Ornithology class!

Astronaut Mae Jemison Visits Andover

The first African-American woman to travel to space speaks to the Andover Community

Guest Post by Isabelle Bicks ’18

Dr Mae Jemison Poster Final

Last Friday evening, Andover had the privilege to welcome Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American woman to travel to space, accomplished physician, and lifelong dancer. Her vast knowledge and passion for science were palpable, but I was most interested by the connection Dr. Jemison made between the arts and sciences. As both a ballet dancer and biology student, I loved that she drew from both seemingly opposite experiences to illustrate how she was a pioneer in her career. Dancing has been such an integral part in my own life and has most certainly impacted how I work as a student at Andover. Dr. Jemison explained that the arts are the study of ourselves, while science is the study of the world around us. I had never before realized this connection. Although our world today tends to compartmentalize people and label them as either gifted math/science people or arts and humanities people, Dr. Jemison completely disrupted this tendency and explained how her own passion for the arts translated into the successful career she leads.  I think that these ideas about integrating arts and sciences can be utilized at Andover. Bridging the curriculum between the two disciplines seems necessary and beneficial.  At a school that strives to achieve “empathy and balance,” Dr. Jemison was the perfect speaker to embody these qualities.

The Science Faculty had an opportunity to attend a reception with Ms. Jemison and here is a bonus photo of her with Carol Artacho (physics), Sheena Hilton (chemistry), Caroline Odden (physics), and Fei Yao (physics).

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Spring is Near!

Mr. Cone’s Spring Ornithology Class Begins!

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

Downy_Woodpecker_b52-1-171_l_1
Photo from National Audubon Society [http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/downy-woodpecker]
As we donned our binoculars and prepped for our second outing in Mr. Cone’s Biology 421 Ornithology class, none other than Mr. Cone himself pointed out the rare sighting of a male downy woodpecker from the window of our classroom. This particular bird, according to Mr. Cone, does not often visit the bird-feeder by Gelb, but, that day, we were lucky enough to catch it. With its stark red field mark, Mr. Cone could immediately tell it was a male. The class watched as the bird climbed its way up the feeder, using its sharp tail as a “third foot.”

This is how our outings usually begin. We start from Gelb and make our way around campus, going from one bird feeder to the next, with the hopes of sighting a new bird or observing the behaviors of ones already familiar to us. We have already seen a number of chickadees and become especially accustomed to hearing their high pitched “dee-dee-dee” call. In addition, robins, white-breasted nuthatches, and tufted titmice have frequented our campus skies. Even some less common birds have paid a visit: a male and female house finch and a cardinal. When we made our way over to Rabbit Pond, we found two Canada Geese cleaning their wings in the water, ducking their heads and turning upside down. I was able to get a photo through the “binocs” (as Mr. Cone calls them) on my phone. If you look closely, there’s a mallard duck sleeping on the cluster of rocks.

Submission 1 Photo

On our walks, Mr. Cone encourages us to not only be on the lookout for birds, but also to take some time to enjoy nature. In our world, it takes more effort to go outside than to revert to our tendencies to stay inside. Mr. Cone’s class not only gives us the opportunity to learn about birds, but also it reminds us how much we take nature for granted. I imagine that by the end of this term, my classmates and I will have taken the time to reconnect with nature and develop a greater appreciation for all the beauty that birds have to offer.